Winter is almost here, but the bears of Sarnia aren’t hibernating just yet.
The annual Sarnia Sting Teddy Bear Toss returns for its 20th season on Dec. 3, when the boys in black and gold host the Oshawa Generals at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena.
As per tradition, when Sarnia nets its first goal of the night fans respond with a shower of stuffed animals, littering the ice in a veritable toy bonanza.
“When you’re at the game and you see all the stuffed toys coming down, it’s pretty emotional,” said Rob Ravensberg president and general manager of event sponsor Lambton Ford.
“There’s a lot of children in our immediate community that wouldn’t receive a new gift if it wasn’t for this event.”
Ravensberg said the Teddy Bear Toss began in 1994 in the Western Hockey League and came to Sarnia in 1998. Lambton Ford has been a sponsor ever since.
“I was watching the (first) game… and all I was thinking was that poor goalie getting pelted with the toys,” he said with a laugh.
The teddies are gathered up are distributed to local families through the Women’s Interval Home, Sarnia Kinsmen, Pathways Children’s Treatment Center, the Inn of the Good Shepherd and others.
The family-friendly event has generated 55,000 plush toys since its inception.
Ravensberg said the ‘toss’ averages 3,000 toys a year and the record so far is 3,785. This year, he hopes to top 4,000 gifts for children.
“It’s been really rewarding,” he said. “We are making a difference.”
Those not attending the game but who want to contribute can drop off a stuffed animal until Dec. 9 at Lambton Ford, 101 Indian Rd., S.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: 20th annual Teddy Bear Toss
WHERE: Progressive Auto Sales Arena, 1455 London Rd., Sarnia
WHEN: Dec. 3 at 2:05 p.m.
TICKETS: Available at sarniasting.com or box office at Progressive Auto Sales Arena.